NFL’s Future is counting down the 2012 season opener with its preseason Power Rankings. We provide in-depth team previews and schedule analysis as the NFL season draws near.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
Change came fast and furious for the Jaguars in 2012. New owner Shad Khan brought in Mike Mularky to head up his team. The Jags played and are still playing hardball with running back Maurice Jones-Drew who appears bent on a new contract. Year one for Blaine Gabbert wasn’t pretty but there wasn’t much that was for a team that went 5-11. Gabbert has looked improved in early preseason action but will need to grow quickly for this team to live up to the lofty 26 ranking. One can make a case that this is the worst team in football.
The Jaguars offense in 2011 was downright inept. Blaine Gabbert struggled as a rookie but give the guy some credit as is best option was Mike Thomas. Gabbert was helped out by the organization taking Justin Blackmon with their first round pick in 2012. Blackmon’s offseason was cut short by a hold out and off-the-field issues have already popped up. That said, Blackmon has been lights out since joining the team and has the look of a No. 1 target. The addition of Laurent Robinson should better this WR corps as it allows Thomas to move into the slot, a more natural fit for him.
The running game is in a state of flux without MJD. If the Jags don’t find a way to secure their best player by next weekend, it could be ugly in 2012. Jones-Drew relieves a lot of pressure from the young quarterback and should speed up Gabbert’s development this season. The running back situation behind MJD isn’t pretty with Rashad Jennings likely to take opening day snaps at the position. Ouch.
The offensive line may be a source of contention all season. The right side of the line doesn’t exactly exude confidence from many around the league and could be a source of problems for the maturation of Gabbert.
The positives for this offense will be a strong offensive coaching staff. Mularky is an offensive guy and he brought on Bob Bratkowski as OC who will be helped by highly regarded receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and Greg Olson will mentor the quarterbacks.
As bad as Jacksonville was in 2011, the defense wasn’t all that bad. They were on the field a lot with a turnover prone offense. Mel Tucker was retained as defensive coordinator which was a good move by Mularky. Tucker is a fiery coach that is respected by the players. He got the best of a bad team during his term as interim HC in 2011.
Tucker will have some solid pieces to craft his 2012 defense around. Leading the charge for the Jags will be LB Paul Posluszny. Posluszny is a tackling machine that will be relied upon to head up last year’s 6th rated defense. The defense returns 10 starters from 2011 but the uncertainty of LB Clint Session hurts this unit. Session has struggled with recurring concussion symptoms which cost him seven games last season.
The defensive line was able to retain the services of defensive end Jeremy Mincey, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Keeping Mincey and adding Andre Branch in the draft could have a major impact on a line that was very good in 2011. DT’s Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton are two of the better young DT’s in the league. Knighton’s return from an eye injury in the offseason will be crucial for Tucker’s defense.
The secondary remains an issue for this defense. Rashean Mathis has lost a step and appears to be on his last legs, leaving a hole at left corner. Aaron Ross was signed in the offseason but currently sits behind Mathis on the depth chart. The right corner spot is locked down by Derek Cox who quietly had a good season in 2011 and will look to capitalize in 2012. The safeties come back intact this season with Dawan Landry at SS and Dwight Lowery at FS.
Here’s a look at the uphill battle facing the Jags in terms of the 2012 schedule.
Sept. 9 – at Minnesota Vikings
Sept. 16 – Houston Texans
Sept. 23 – at Indianapolis Colts
Sept. 30 – Cincinnati Bengals
Oct. 7 – Chicago Bears
Oct. 14 – BYE
Oct. 21 – at Oakland Raiders
Oct. 28 – at Green Bay Packers
Nov. 4 – Detroit Lions
Nov. 8 – Indianapolis Colts
Nov. 18 – at Houston Texans
Nov. 25 – Tennessee Titans
Dec. 2 – at Buffalo Bills
Dec. 9 – NY Jets
Dec. 16 – at Miami Dolphins
Dec. 23 – New England Patriots
Dec. 30 – at Tennessee Titans
Shad Khan appears to be taking the right steps towards building this franchise into a legitimate NFL team. With poor ticket sales and even poorer fan base, they need a spark. That spark could come in 2012 as Blaine Gabbert looks to have taken steps forward in the offseason. He will have better weapons at his disposal in 2012 with first round pick Justin Blackmon in the fold. The Jags will still only go as far as MJD takes them on offense…and he isn’t around. With MJD this is a six win team (one better than last season), without him it could turn ugly quickly.